Today was planned to be an exciting day as we had arranged to meet Koga-san for our road trip to explore places that are off-the-beaten track. Our itinerary had been greatly modified depending on weather conditions. We initially wanted to visit Nishizawa Ravine. However, due to the weather forecast, we decided to change places and visit spots whereby even in the rain, it is still manageable to visit!
So yes, we met Koga-san at the lobby of our hotel! Today, he would be our driver and our guide. We set off to our first stop: Obina community at Kofu city. Well, this is a local place, not known to many people. I could not even find enough information of Obina from the internet and I did not know this place until Koga-san introduced me to. The focus of this place is to see the beautiful rice-fields and hopefully to catch farmers working.
The air over there was very fresh and we could see greenery everywhere accompanying the beautiful rice fields. It was still not time for harvest. But, the vast land available for rice planting was quite amazing. The well-known most popular rice production comes from Niigata. And also priced the most expensive. But, in general, I think rice planted in Yamanashi should taste equally great! So far, for the rice that we had eaten during our meals, they were all yummy, sweet, and delicious! Tasted totally different from rice we had at home.
We walked around a little as we went down the hill in our car, something amazing happened! We spotted a baby fox :D
It only showed us its face for less than 2 seconds and it ran away as fast as it could! That was wildlife. You only felt a sense of excitement and happiness after experiencing it! No words could describe our feeling at that point. haha
So yes, we drove off after our brief encounter with the fox. And went to our next stop:
Ashigawa community in Fuefuki city. Ashigawa is a village in Yamanashi Prefecture.This is a small traditional mountain village hidden in a valley. Same thing. Another place which I never knew it existed! So we were very excited and when we arrived. Koga-san informed us there was quite some walking for this stretch and we were all looking forward to explore this area.
Walking up to Ashigawa community....
The holy tree with the shrine beside it
Sweet corn in the plantation
Us in the middle of Ashigawa while exploring
Out of Nowhere haha
Dog saying Hello!
After enjoying the fresh air and scenery, we came across this traditional house that was constructed for guests to come in, have a rest and appreciate what is usually seen in this type of house. According to Koga-san, it is known as the Kominka "Fujiwara House". And we encountered a friendly old lady at this place who was very hospitable as she served us very nice green tea, sweet peaches, and pickled vegetables. I guess she must be very old and she refused to divulge her age to our amusement. She still looked very energetic though. As we sat by the fireplace, she shared information of the Ashigawa community, the history, the culture bit by bit with us. We understood some of it through Koga-san. She was very nice and motherly I felt. I guessed there isnt too many visitors so when we came by, she was very chatty and talked to us a lot which we did not mind at all! It was a very authentic experience for us to come by to this place, which we had never planned to!
It was past lunch time hour by the time we finished Ashigawa. Boy we were famished! Koga-san introduced a really nice place for lunch where we had soba at this quaint restaurant known as Kawazashiki Suzuran Restaurant. The food and serving size were enormous and what added to the pleasure of dining at this place was that it was located just next to a beautiful river with rapids!
The beautiful greenery accompanying the river! How nice to have lunch at this wonderful place :D
I was very glad Koga-san brought us here, given that we did not manage to visit Nishizawa Ravine this time haha.. but this picture gave me very beautiful memories of enjoying summer in Japan!
We next visited the Shirayuri Winery , also known as L'Orient winery in Yamanashi city. We have never done so, one of the reasons is that most tours were given in Japanese and it will be very challenging to visit one when my Japanese language is just of medicore standard haha..so this time luckily, Koga-san was with us and he became our translator to unveil and understand the beauty of wine making at this winery.
Over there, we got to see different varieties of grapes like Kyoho and Pione grapes. Unfortuntately, they are only in season in August so we could not try it! A pity indeed when both of us are Kyoho-diehard fans! haha
Very friendly aunty who brought us around
There are some very unique wines like the cherry wine which we purchased back home. And also their Rose which tasted very smooth. We also bought their mini-sized peach wine to try since it is the peach season in July! A very happy visit followed by a quick look at the nearby glass-making workshop located next to the winery!
Our last stop would be the Hottarakashi onsen, located in Yamanashi city. I never knew this onsen exists, once again after Koga-san's introduction, we got kinda excited for this visit as on a good weather, you will get to enjoy beautiful scenery, and even Mount Fuji!
We did not see Mount Fuji that day as it was pretty cloudy, but we were greeted by beautiful view of Yamanashi city. It is a public rotenburo (outdoor bath) and is famous with locals because of its scenic view. One may feel embarassed in front of many others while going for an onsen, but once you can overcome this, it is all worthwhile! I enjoyed my visit totally! No camera is allowed so below is an image taken from the internet.
Photo Courtesy of Hottarakashi Hot Springs
1. Obina community at Kofu city
2. Ashigawa community in Fuefuki city
3. Kawazashiki Suzuran Restaurant
We concluded the trip after the onsen as Koga-san sent us back to the hotel at Kofu city. I'm so glad we took up this tour as we uncovered many places which we had never thought of visiting. And I do hope I have enticed you through my blog to visit these places when you have the opportunity to visit the Yamanashi prefecture!
We were going to meet Koga-san again 2 days later for a wild-life spotting tour! I was totally excited about it and hoped to see many animals..but wildlife is still wildlife..you need to depend on luck, time, weather etc..haha...so just hope for the best!
Contact details of Koga-san are as followed:
Email address: KOGA@fujisancurator.com
Koga-san's website: http://www.fujisancurator.com/
You can also contact the Mount Fuji Yamanashi Guide-Interpreter Association (FYGIA) for Yamanashi travel via the following website. They have many guides proficient in English, Chinese and French too!